"I go every Saturday to els Encants," my friend Teresa quipped casually over lunch one day. Els Encants intrigued me for two reasons: one, people always spoke of the this place as a vintage hunter's paradise. Reason two: on countless occasions Ace and I drove by the loopy intersection of Glories and saw chains of people disappearing into a place called els Encants tucked somewhere near the overpass and roundabout.
Obviously, to get over my curiosity (Ace had no real interest to help me settle it), I asked Teresa if I could join her on her weekend ritual of visiting els Encants. I took the red metro line and got off at the Glories metro stop. I surfaced to the street without really knowing which direction to take. But being the savvy traveler that I am, I zeroed in on an older couple walking slowly up an empty and desolate street towards the overpass. They kindly told me that els Encants was at the end of the scraggly street we were walking on. I felt relieved to know my direction, but a bit uncomfortable walking ahead, all alone and encountering men walking in the same direction as me. We all walked parallel to the saddest and most decrepit park, enclosed by a tall black wrought iron fence.
I walked on and stopped to snap a photograph of the lleig, lleig, park. An older man walking behind me asked if I was lost and answered him I was not. I quickly put away my camera and kept walking. Then rogue vendors began to dot the edge of the street and I knew I was headed in the right direction and finally the overpass came into view.
When I finally crossed the overpass, I was amusingly informed by a sock vendor that I was at one of six entrances. Teresa had mentioned only one entrance. Yikes. I figured I would stay put next to the Encants Vell sign floating above me and wait for Teresa to appear at 10 a.m. I decided to take some entrance shots and hope Teresa would figure that this Americana was not going to budge from the official flea market sign. I was relieved when she showed up with an ear to ear smile and waving her arms at me to get my attention.
We walked into the mercat and everything slowly began to make sense to me--I was at a swap meet, as these outdoor markets are called in Southern California, with the exception that this one has been around for 800 years and is free. I understood Teresa's draw to this place of new and used goods, vintage to modern, classy to kitsch, and moderate to cheap prices. I saw her bargaining skills in full swing, sometimes convincing a vendor for a good deal or forgoing haggling with a tight lipped vendor annoyed at being asked to come down on his price.
I bought pink nail polish for 3€, a wooden bead necklace and bracelet for 2€, two wood mounted rubber stamps for 5€, and a red titanium wallet case for 5€--super necessary to stash metro tickets and some euros when carrying a normal sized wallet is a bad idea. Teresa bought undergarments, two piece bathing suits, and sabates for a friend's daughter plus a garment for herself. She knew her way around pointing out worthwhile vendors and skipping stalls with little attraction.
Aside from showing me where to find bargains, she unknowingly taught me a photography lesson in street portraits. If you find an interesting person to photograph, walk right up to them and ask permission to take their picture. Just like that.
T: I love the hat that woman is wearing!
T: There (she points). Take her picture!
Me: Too late, she's too far.
T: Take her picture!
Me: Ya se fue.
T: Give me your camera I'll take her picture!
Me: --Stunned, I obey her command and watch her trail after the woman wearing a big, stiff, striped black and white hat.
|Teresa's first street portrait. Beautiful.|
I pin my eyes on Teresa and track her chasing the Woman, wondering how she's going to pull it off.
T: Excuse me can I take your picture?
T: Porque estas muy guapa.
Picture taken. Both ladies walk away from each other happy. And I'm happy to learn how she did it, so I can be slick like her when approaching someone to photograph by giving them a compliment when they ask why I want to take their photograph. I've missed countless street portraits because I was too chicken to ask. At the mercat, I instead took pictures of still objects and upset a vendor selling military regalia.
Me: Click, click, click, click, click, click, click.
V: Now move that helmet and take a picture of the sign.
Me: --I move the helmet and see his "no pictures" sign. Gulp.
Swap meets are not knew to me, I grew up with them in California. Outdated drive-in movie theaters were converted to swap meets to take advantage of the space, so a city could earn more revenue. I want to return again to els Encants without a camera, more money in my pocket, and walk out with bags of bargain deals like Teresa did. It's a place with a wide variety of items for sale: faucets, fishing gear, jewelry, garden supplies, furs, lingerie, shoes, toys, sundries, DVDs, clothes, electrical appliances, evening gowns and other knick knacks that would benefit a recycling bin. I guarantee you'll buy something you didn't even know you needed at Els Encants Vells. Fins Ara!
|Teresa modeling a dress I really liked.|
|Sagrada Familia --visca el kitsch!|